Buchanan City Commission considers construction plans

BUCHANAN — A local businessman’s plans to construct a new building on E. Third Street are moving forward after-action Monday by the Buchanan City Commission. However, it remains to be seen whether it will be the new home for the city’s Department of Public Works.

Monday, city commissioners approved a planned unit development ordinance amendment to allow Bill Green to construct the spec building on acreage he owns on E. Third Street. At the same time, they postponed sending out requests for proposals for the new DPW facility.

The Green proposal was the subject of a two-plus hour planning commission meeting last week. Planning commissioners ended up recommending approval of the planned unit development amendment but held off giving final approval to the site plans.

Green had initially said five years ago that he planned to build a fitness center and condos on the 11.4 acres he bought in the former Clark Equipment brownfield off E. Third Street. He and his wife, Teresa, have already built the fitness center, but never built the high-rise condos due to a lack of market demand. 

new plan as outlined in the planned unit development amendment calls for constructing the 20,000-square-foot spec building, a separate holistic health center and a smaller condo project. The PUD amendment is being pushed through now because Green wants to get the concrete footings of the new building done before winter.

Residents spoke out against amending the Greens’ PUD at the start of the meeting. 

“I just think we need to run through standard operating procedures and not skip protocols,” said Jen Tabor, who lives near the project site. “We need to make sure the ‘i’s are dotted and the ‘t’s crossed. It’s a little unnerving that they were breaking ground before this was approved. It feels like there’s inequity here and the rights of all not being heard before the decision.”

She noted that she can put a lot of effort in her house on E. Front Street and then end up having an industrial building going in right behind her.

“I’m concerned about the resale of my house with a potential DPW building there and snow plows going out at 5 a.m.,” she said. “We should be doing something more community minded instead of industrial.”

The requests for proposal item was postponed after commissioners raised questions. Cameron Downey was among those suggesting that requests for proposal on a new DPW building not be sent out until the commission holds a joint meeting with the planning commission. The planning commission requested such a meeting last week.

“We need to take advantage of the experience on the planning commission. It doesn’t make any sense moving forward with the RFP without talking to people in the community,” he said. “I think it’s silly to have a RFP before that meeting.”

City Manager William Marx said after the meeting that the joint meeting will likely take place the week of Oct. 12.

Commissioner Sean Denison noted that there are other, less expensive options available besides going with the Green spec building, which could cost the city $1.4 million or more. He suggested that a new building could be quickly placed out of the floodplain near the current building at the end of Clark Street at a cost of $100,000.

While the PUD amendment and accompanying text language was approved unanimously, at least one commissioner seemed to agree that the E. Third Street site is not the best place for the new DPW building. 

Commissioner Mark Weedon said he agreed with Tabor about not locating the new DPW building there.

“Personally, I’m not comfortable putting that building in that location,” he said. “The condos will be well built and attract individuals who won’t want to hear the comings and goings of the DPW staff and equipment. I know there will be barriers for noise, but I don’t see the need to have the DPW building there with the area becoming a destination.”

For his part, Denison said he did not see locating the DPW building there as an issue for Tabor and others who live on Front Street. He noted that there are industries and businesses already along E. Third Street, and he supports more business development.

In election related action, the commission accepted two grants to help offset costs associated with the November election. City Clerk Barbara Pitcher said the city is getting $5,000 from a national organization called the Center for Tech and Civic Life and $2,695 from a federal/state grant.

She said the $2,695 will pay for half the costs of a new tabulator to establish an absentee ballot counting board. Those funds come from the Help America Vote Act and state covid-19 pandemic monies.

She said the other grant will help pay for everything from setting up the new absentee ballot counting board and bringing in some more election workers to buying more personal protective equipment, signage and dividers.

The commission also approved the renewal of Zen Leaf’s medical marijuana provisioning center license. Marx and City Zoning Administrator Debra Patzer said Zen Leaf has been a welcome addition to the downtown and been extremely responsive any time an issue arises. Patzer said the renewal was delayed due to the pandemic.

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